The COVID-19 pandemic was particularly dangerous for older adults. While age does not determine whether a person infected with COVID-19 will become seriously ill, older adults are more likely to have the health conditions and impaired immune systems that make people more vulnerable to COVID-19 complications.
During the pandemic’s final surge of fatalities, 92% of Americans whose deaths were caused by a COVID-19 infection were age 65 or older. About three-quarters of all Americans who died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began have been over the age of 64.
Fortunately, vaccinations have sharply reduced the death rate from COVID-19 infections among all age groups. Unfortunately, the infection continues to spread, in part because a significant number of people believe myths about vaccines and have declined to be vaccinated. The original virus has also mutated several times, producing variants that the original vaccines were not designed to address.
Seniors are Suffering from Vaccine Fatigue
Vaccines do not always prevent illness caused by a COVID-19 infection, but they greatly reduce the likelihood of a serious illness that will require hospitalization. Over time, however, vaccinations lose their effectiveness. Vaccine boosters have extended the period during which vaccinations continue to protect against the severe consequences of a COVID-19 infection.
While older adults have benefitted the most from COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine effectiveness wanes more quickly in people who are reached the age of 65. That fact makes it particularly important for older adults to obtain recommended vaccine boosters. Since seniors often socialize with other seniors, the immunization they acquire from vaccinations also helps them avoid spreading the virus to other members of a vulnerable population.
Unfortunately, seniors have not kept up with their booster shots. While older adults were the most reliable demographic to obtain COVID-19 vaccinations, seniors have become less vigilant as the pandemic has receded from headlines. The American Public Health Association reports that “older adults have the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates overall, but their booster uptake is also relatively low.”
Older adults are not alone in succumbing to “vaccine fatigue.” Most Americans have not kept up with recommended boosters.
A New Vaccine
A new vaccine became available this fall. The new vaccine provides protection against new variants that have emerged as the virus has mutated.
The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 5 receive the updated vaccine. It is manufactured by three companies. The CDC does not prefer one vaccine manufacturer over the other two.
The new vaccine is administered in a single dose to people who have already been vaccinated. Whether people who have not received a COVID-19 vaccination will need one or two doses of the updated vaccine depends on the vaccine they choose.
While the government no longer pays the cost of a vaccination for every American, Medicare covers that expense in full.
The CDC’s vaccine locator can help seniors search for locations in their zip code that have the new vaccine in stock and that are able to administer vaccinations. Medicare may pay a care provider to administer the vaccination in a senior’s home if a disability prevents the senior from traveling to a doctor’s office.